Machinists everywhere know that often, its not cutting the parts you’ve been asked to deliver that keeps you in the shop late nights. It’s the prep one must do to get those chips flying which will make, or break, your business. Even the highest-end CNC machining centers aren’t plug and play. Before you can begin cutting, one of the most complex and time-consuming things a tech will have to do is develop a clamping system which will hold the workpiece firmly, while still allowing the tool the maximum amount of access to the billet being machined.
If your machinist is like most – they will tell you stories of jobs for which machining time on the part being delivered is often less than 4 hours, but the fixture to hold it consisted of up to twenty parts and took 6 weeks to manufacture! In fact – delays of four to six weeks, just waiting for a custom fixture are normal! In addition – the design effort expended on finding a suitable geometry, and modeling this in CAD, is often quite difficult.
Matsuura UK, who distributes Matsuura CNC centers and HP additive manufacturing equipment for British manufacturers, saw a presentation highlighting generative design in Fusion 360 and had flash of inspiration which has reduced this waiting on custom fixtures from weeks to hours (that is right, I said hours). Giving their customers a unique competitive advantage even while making their day to day jobs easier by using generative design in Fusion 360 to automatically create custom workpiece-holding, and printing these fixtures in a high-strength polymer OVERNIGHT . This allows for the machines to start spinning in twenty-four hours and parts to be delivered in days!
Using generative design in Fusion 360 – the billet to be manufactured is placed in the design environment, while the mounting points on the machine are specified. The loads on the billet during machining are defined, and finally – areas where the tool must have access are blocked in the software, so as to ensure that the final bracket (which is what is essentially being designed) does not cover these areas. In just minutes, generative design in Fusion 360 generates many different possible fixtures – all of which can 1) be manufactured using Matsuura’s HP machines and 2) are more than strong enough to hold the billet firmly in place and maintain tolerances.
The team at Matsuura can typically print and treat such a fixture in less than twenty-four hours – and the machinists can begin making chips using it the next business day! This is a massive competitive advantage and Autodesk is proud to be a part of this exciting and groundbreaking innovation!
You can see more in this video highlighting the process in Matsuura’s own words!
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